Not to be outdone by Salesforce, SAP has introduced a new enterprise-centric social platform named Jam, which gives businesses the ability to set up a Facebook-like social network for their employees. SAP is pairing it with a Social OnDemand package that allows marketers and other employees to monitor and respond to customers’ social media interactions.
As with similar social enterprise platforms, SAP Jam is designed to let colleagues collaborate over projects and data. Social represents a growing segment of the business-software market, with IDC reporting 39.8 percent year-over-year growth in 2011. “Today’s organizations are looking to collaborate in real time and in context, inside and outside the firewall, to include employees, customers, partners and suppliers,” Vanessa Thompson, a research manager at IDC, wrote in a statement timed to SAP Jam’s announcement.
The working theory behind social enterprise tools is that organizations are more efficient when employees can reach out to any colleague or superior with a few mouse-clicks, as opposed to restricting themselves to those in their division or project silo. At pretty much every tech conference over the past few years, executives have stood before massive audiences and talked about the joys of using these tools to sidestep their own organization’s bureaucracy.
Vendors such as Salesforce and SAP argue that, for businesses, instituting an enterprise-centric social network is a far superior option to using consumer platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And certainly tools such as SAP Jam allow organizations to isolate enterprise data and communications from the larger world. In practice, however, it’s a bigger question whether employees used to well-worn ways of communicating will quickly move to these new channels.
On the external-facing side of things, more and more vendors are offering tools for monitoring social networks, in hopes of measuring consumer sentiment and stopping problems before they can fully develop. Even before Social OnDemand, SAP took steps in this direction with a new platform for sentiment intelligence bonded to its SAP HANA in-memory technology; that software leveraged data from a variety of Internet and intranet sources, including social-networking sites and wikis, in the name of sentiment analysis.
Meanwhile, vendors ranging from Salesforce and Oracle to Google have snatched up startups that specialize in social-network monitoring and analysis, the better to integrate such tools into their own cloud platforms. This summer, for example, Oracle acquired social-marketing firm Involver, a move that at the time was viewed as a counter to Salesforce’s acquisition of Buddy Media and Radian6, and Google’s purchase of social-networking-tools vendor Meebo.